Dramatic Mistrial in Case of Teen Burned Alive

Prosecutors plan to try Quinton Tellis again
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2017 4:03 AM CDT
Dramatic Mistrial in Case of Teen Burned Alive
Ashley Chambers muffles her reaction during the closing arguments in the capital murder trial of Quinton Tellis, 29, charged with the burning death of her sister, Jessica Chambers, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, Pool)

Twice a jury appeared before a court Monday to announce a not guilty verdict in the 2014 burning death of 19-year-old Jessica Chambers—and twice it was revealed the decision was actually split. Finally, Judge Gerald Chatham declared a mistrial due to a "hopelessly deadlocked" jury, though prosecutors immediately stated they intended to try Quinton Tellis again for capital murder, reports the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. According to prosecutors, phone records show 29-year-old Tellis, an acquaintance of Chambers, was with her around the time she was doused in gasoline and set on fire in Courtland, Miss., on Dec. 6, 2014. Defense attorneys, however, stressed that Chambers identified her attacker as "Eric" or "Derek" before she died, per WREG.

Though USA Today reports Chambers' mouth was so badly charred that she mispronounced her own last name as "Tambers," Tellis' family urged authorities to "find Eric" as they celebrated the mistrial. Defense attorney Alton Peterson described the result as "very unusual," adding, "I've never seen it happen before," per WREG and CNN. After a week-long trial, jurors apparently believed only a guilty verdict required a unanimous decision; they returned with a split not guilty verdict even after the judge reminded them that a decision had to be unanimous. Peterson says his "great sense of relief" quickly evaporated. It's not yet clear when a new trial could take place. Tellis also faces charges in a separate murder in Louisiana and is serving time in prison for using credit cards belonging to that victim. (Read more Mississippi stories.)

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